Consider Joseph and Daniel

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Colossians 3:22-24 (HCSB), “Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while they are watching, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will gain the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thankfully, those of us in most of the world don’t have to worry about being slaves. However we can apply this passage of scripture to employees, servants, and anyone who is under another’s authority. The world would be a better place and much more productive if we did this. There wouldn’t be such a spirit of “socialism” in the world either. Everyone would do their part to the best of their ability. There are way more people who could be working at something than there are those who truly can’t work at anything.

In America we complain a lot, about a lot. We tend to complain about Mondays, why? Because we have to go back to work. We complain about having to work at all, or we complain about the hard hours, or those who don’t work as hard as we do, or that we aren’t appreciated, or recognized, or praised…need I go on? This week I was reading my Bible and came across that scripture in Colossians, which led me to these:

Ephesians 6:5-6 (NIV), “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”

Hebrews 13:17 (KJB), “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Do your job even if no one is looking. Submit to those in authority over you, even if they are wrong. Now, I have to clarify that we don’t have to go against our morals here, that isn’t what I am talking about. What I am saying is we don’t have to be right. As an example, let’s consider a couple of men from the Bible.

Joseph and Daniel were both slaves. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, actually only one, the rest of them wanted to kill him, and ended up with years slavery. First in the home of Potiphar where he did such a good job the Egyptian put him over his whole household. Then when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, and Joseph literally ran away, she accused him or rape and Potiphar sent him straight to prison. In prison he quickly rose in authority until he pretty much ran the place. He was released from his confinement after interpreting some dreams of Pharaoh’s. He saved not only Egypt from famine, but his own family as well. His ending was that he was second only to the Pharaoh himself, who pretty much ruled the known world at the time.

Daniel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and taken from his own homeland and relocated to Babylon. He too due to his obedience quickly rose in rank and authority. He ended up serving under seven different rulers and kings, none of them Jewish. Like Joseph, he stood for righteousness and continued to serve God where he was. And like Joseph he also interpreted the dreams of a king through God’s revelation. He didn’t use his captivity under a gentile foreign king as an excuse not to serve God along with serving the king. He was almost killed for continuing to obey God when the king made a law that contradicted God’s law. God however, intervened and saved Daniel’s life.

If we look at these two men we see a pattern. They didn’t just obey God. Had they snubbed their noses at their captors, they would have at best, not risen in authority, and at worst, been killed. Yet, when it came to sinning against God they both refused. Daniel calmly continued to pray three times a day as was his custom, and Joseph refused to allow temptation to commit adultery with another man’s wife. They didn’t fight their captors, they didn’t refuse to work, they didn’t try and sabotage their new governments, but they did obey in every way that didn’t go against their faith in God.

How much more should we obey our bosses, teachers, parents, government officials, Church leaders, and God himself? We who are free from the law and are not obligated to follow it, but have the grace of God and His love inside of us; shouldn’t we be even more obedient? We are representing Heaven and our Heavenly Father let’s represent Him well. When we do that our bosses, leaders, etc. can do their jobs with joy. God will get the glory and people will be blessed.

It’s always right to do the right thing. It’s always best to do our best.

I am not sure who coined this phrase, but the school I taught at for years had this as our motto: “Good, better, best, I’ll never rest, until my good is better and my better is best.”

I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV), “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

 

Limbo

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I am not talking about the game where you duck under a broom to some fun music, I am talking about that in-between stage in your life when you know change is coming, yet you lack the details.

Limbo- an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

You know something is coming, something big. Usually it involves some kind of change, maybe a promotion, or a change in lifestyle, or a new spiritual level. My husband gets excited in this place. I get scared. (Yep, God put us together for a reason.)

I have to admit, I don’t so much get anxious anymore, but I do feel like the “Velveteen Rabbit” the abandoned favorite toy. I feel like I should be doing something, but I don’t know what. I find myself feeling stretched, but I don’t know why. I feel like just around the corner is something exciting, but I don’t know what. If you know me at all, you know I hate change. I want to know the plan and there better be one. I am not real spontaneous. So this in-between time, this limbo is a very uncomfortable time for me. Another reason it isn’t a fun place is that there is just too much “feeling” going on which is made evident in this paragraph. It is a place where you have to bypass all of those feelings and stand in faith. You have to blindly put your trust in Him who is trustworthy.

Another reason I don’t enjoy this state of limbo is because usually it means letting go of something. I was in limbo right before I left my secular job and started in the full time ministry. I was in limbo right before I left the ministry of working at my Church. (I am still in the ministry, just not at my church building.) It took a while to know what the changes were going to be. It was scary stepping out into the full time ministry. Finances were slim, new enemy attacks were coming, more faith was required! It was just as scary leaving the place that I worked and ministered for thirteen years to begin working from home. Who would I talk to, who would pray for me on the spot when I needed it, how would I stay in the loop? All things that I fretted about. I have been in limbo so many times during my life and I am starting to get that feeling again lately.

I can honestly say that every time I made the transition from one level to the next, even though I thought it was scary and totally plan-less, God had a plan. He knew what He was doing. Even when I didn’t understand how, or why, or when, or pretty much anything, He did. My life was always better on the other side. There was greater faith, more blessings, more fruit coming out of the old and into the new.

And those times in-between of waiting and praying?

Those brought patience and maturity.

Are you doing the limbo? Do you feel like you are off balance and ready to topple, or ready to knock your noggin on that broom stick?

Don’t fret!

There is a promotion on the other side!

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV), “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Heart Hooks

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Isaiah 61:1-3 (KJB), “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

Have you ever been hooked by a fish hook? Maybe seen someone who has? I have several times, some of the stories are downright comical, others make you cringe just thinking about them. The thing about a fish hook is that you can’t just pull those things out. They have little barbs on them that are supposed to keep you from losing your fish.

I read a book recently where they used this analogy to explain the hurts in our heart. Those hurts are like fish hooks, full of barbs that are embedded in our hearts. You really can’t just pull them out. God knows this and cares about us so much that he takes them out the “easy way”. This involves pushing them through. It is still painful, believe me, it will hurt. However, it will not do more damage. Our Father knows the safest way to get them out. He can remove them without tearing our hearts to pieces. He is in the repair business not the demolition business after all.

We read in scripture about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, resisting, and then coming out of that experience full of the power of the Holy Spirit. He immediately started teaching in the synagogues. We read in Luke that He returns to His hometown, where He was raised and as was His custom, went to the synagogue there. He stands up and reads those words out of Isaiah. I enjoy the King James Version of this one because it reads that He came to “bind up the brokenhearted”. When I read this version, I always picture a torn and ravaged heart that He tenderly wraps in the gauze of His love, stopping the hemorrhaging.

That’s why He came. To heal our hearts. To show us that the Father’s love is more than enough to bind up any brokenness, to stitch up every wound, to break up every stony place, and to fill our hearts with His love (His love is “shed abroad” in our hearts.)

I found myself recently having to allow one of those barbs to be removed. I thought that the broken place had already been healed. Sometimes we don’t even know about a wound until God starts that gently pushing. Did it hurt? You bet. It also brought up some ugly stuff that I didn’t want to deal with. Yet, I have gotten smarter with every hook removed, so I allowed Him to do His thing. I was left feeling emotional, drained, and free! One more hurt gone. One more kiss from Daddy on the boo-boo. I am glad that just because we think everything is fine, doesn’t mean that He stops working on us. He knew I still harbored that hook. He also knew it was not part of His plan for my life. So out came the spotlight and there it was.

When that happens, the best thing to do is immediately surrender that hurt to God. Forgive anyone you need to, and ask Him to take it out. I used to reason with myself, make excuses, say things like, “I already got over that years ago,” or get on the bandwagon of lamenting all the hurts in my life, or take on a victim mentality. I learned the hard way that doing those things only makes those barbs reproduce. It makes the hooks grow, and it makes the process of removing them take even longer, and hurt a lot worse. That’s why it is important ask God to search our hearts. Allow the Holy Spirit to show us what’s really in there.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB), “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me,  And lead me in the everlasting way.”

This isn’t about just looking for sin, or bad habits, it is also looking for wrong thought patterns, unforgiveness, and unhealed hurts, every “hurtful way” in us. He is faithful, He is gentle, and His love can heal every wound.

Will you let Him?

The Law Couldn’t Change Me

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Galatians 2:21 (NLT), “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

I knew at a very early age that I wasn’t what I wanted to be. Sure, maybe dreams of being an astronaut, a ballerina, and a rock star weren’t exactly part of the purpose God had for me, but at the time they felt like something attainable. I did know I was destined for greatness. I just didn’t know how to get there. My legs were too short for ballet, my stomach couldn’t handle the tilt-a-whirl, let alone outer space, and my voice was less than stellar. So where did that desire for greatness come from?

From God.

He has purposes and plans for each one of us that would either excite us to delirium, or scare us enough that we would hide in a closet the rest of our lives. We are destined for greatness.

I Corinthians 2:7 (Weymouth New Testament), “But in dealing with truths hitherto kept secret we speak of God’s wisdom–that hidden wisdom which, before the world began, God pre-destined, so that it should result in glory to us;” (emphasis mine)

We are pre-destined for glory. His glory will be revealed in us! When Jesus returns we will be just like Him.

I John 3:2-3 (NSASB), “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is and everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

That is the reason He came. The law couldn’t change us into the image of Jesus. In fact Paul calls the law, “The law of sin and death.” Jesus had neither in Him. Jesus is full of the Father’s love. When we accept that love, then we are changed. Not by outward conformance, but by inward repentance. The word repentance actually means “to change”. We change the way we think, how we see God, how we see ourselves, and what we think of others, by accepting the finished work of Jesus. We change from the path to hell to the path to life. We become more like Him. His blood justified us, that is something the law could never do. At best it covered our sin, it never wiped it all away.

Galatians 2:16 (KJB), “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

If then, we have been changed by the blood of Christ, and by His great love, why would we ever want to go back to the law again? Why would we expect others to live a performance based existence? That would make us just like the some of the early Jewish Christians who wanted the gentiles to adhere to the law. But, Paul’s answer still resonates today:

Acts 15:10 (NLT), “So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?”

The whole reason for the law was because of the hardness of men’s hearts, because of the fall of mankind. God did it to protect the whole race. That is the same reason we have some of the same laws today, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t rape, don’t mistreat children, etc. They are for protection. Now under grace, those who have accepted His atonement for our sin, those of us who know His love, don’t need a law to tell us not to kill, steal, and destroy. We know those are the actions of the enemy and we don’t want no part of that. We also don’t need laws to tell us how to dress, what to eat, or where to live. We allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in these areas. If we had such laws, most of us wouldn’t be able to live up to them!

So we certainly can’t expect others to conform to any weird laws we have made up in our own imagination to prove that they are truly saved.

When we surrender our hearts to the Father, then real change takes place. Changing a habit, changing what we say and do, by self-work, either won’t last, or it will cause pride. True, inside, heart change only happens through the love of God and the work of the Holy Spirit (and neither of those ever come by force!).

The law can’t change us, at least not for the better.

Praise God, His love can!